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March 23, 2023

More gunfire after Kenyan forces assault Nairobi’s Westgate mall

Heavy gunfire sent aid workers and journalists scrambling outside Nairobi’s Westgate Shopping Mall on Monday afternoon, more than an hour after a Kenyan government official said security forces had taken full control of the four-story building from terrorists, CNN reports.
It was unclear if any hostages remained inside the building, but authorities expect the number to be “very, very minimal,” if any remain, Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said at a news briefing.
Most had already been evacuated, he said Monday, the third day of the siege.
The Kenyan Red Cross said that 62 people had died since the siege began Saturday. The agency had previously reported 69 deaths. Some bodies been counted twice, it said on Twitter.
Dark smoke that rose from the building after Monday’s assault was from fires set by the gunmen to distract forces from the assault, Lenku said.
Terrorists appear to be on the run inside the mall, which Lenku said had been sealed off to prevent their escape. “We are in charge of the situation, our people are safe,” he said.
Before the assault, terrorists from the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab group were believed to have about 10 hostages on one level of the mall, security officials said.
An unspecified number of hostages then were freed overnight, the head of the Kenyan police force said.
Outside the security perimeter around the mall, volunteers waited Monday for their chance to go inside and recover bodies.
At a community center nearby, a distraught woman continued to seek information about her missing husband, a mall employee.
Meanwhile, the FBI was looking into claims by Al-Shabaab of American citizens being involved the attack but have not confirmed the claims, law enforcement officials told CNN.
The attack began at midday Saturday, Nairobi time, with an estimated 10 to 15 gunmen attacking the mall. A youth cooking competition was taking place in part of the mall at the time. Two attackers were killed Saturday.

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